By Thomas J. Walsh
The South Street Bridge is not only on schedule and under budget, but it’s looking like it going to be a beauty, said officials of the Philadelphia Streets Department on Thursday evening, at a community meeting at 23rd and Fitzwater streets where three final architectural plans were unveiled for the “towers” that will define the bridge when complete.
Budgetary assurances are one thing, but their aesthetic opinions were backed up by the actual architects, who arrived with posters, a PowerPoint presentation and even a wooden model for the three sets of plans, which incorporate dramatic LED lighting and an emphasis on intimate pedestrian experiences – demanded by past gatherings
“I think that any of them would be acceptable, and we’ve had a great process,” said Marcia Wilkof, Democratic leader of the 30th Ward.
Dave Perri, chief of surveys and design for the Streets Department, said, “Any one of these would do the city proud.”
Citizens seemed to agree. Including the architects from H2L2 (the Center City architecture and planning firm that came up with the designs), officials from the Nutter administration, and other city employees, more than 70 people showed up at the Greater St. Matthews Church on the corner of Fitzwater Street and Grays Ferry Avenue. A few questions were asked, but in general, those who took a look seemed pleased – even though Wilkof made it clear that the process of choosing the final design was not a public one.
She said the next step involved a decision between Mayor Michael Nutter and deputy mayors Rina Cutler (Transportation), Clarena Tolson (Streets) and Alan Greenberger (economic development and commerce, acting). The four would pass along their recommendation to the city’s Art Commission by September, and then passed along to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
“What we decided to do was go ahead with construction, and address the tower issues once the job was underway,” Perri told the crowd. “It quickly became apparent based on the values of our community, that the main issue with the towers was the pedestrian experience as they walked past them on the bridge deck.”
The towers in the three versions are between 22 and 30 feet high. A final decision on their design will be presented on Monday, Aug. 17. The meeting will again be open to the public, at 7 p.m. at the church.
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